Cuyahoga County

Group charged in ATM smash-and-grab racket used customized vans, blow torches, prosecutors say


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Eleven men are charged with running an elaborate smash-and-grab racket that targeted ATMs at businesses in five Northeast Ohio counties.

The men customized stolen cargo vans to fit the machines, then took them to a safe house where they used blow torches and power tools to break them open and get the cash, which amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a 35-page indictment unsealed Tuesday afternoon.

Lamar Speights, Christopher Freeman, Rc Crum, Eugene Martin, Elijah Reid, Alfonzo Goddard, Jerrell Williams, Darrell Jackson, David Johnson, Tyree Jenkins and Earl Davis each face racketeering and conspiracy charges, after a months-long investigation culminated Tuesday in a raid in Cleveland's Union Miles neighborhood.

Authorities plan to discuss the case at a Wednesday news conference, but many details were included in the 74-count indictment.

The men ran the enterprise for nearly five years, honing thier craft to become more efficient over time, the indictment says. But they are only charged in incidents dating as far back as last year, court records say.

The scheme started with the group got ahold of a stolen vehicle, usually a passenger cargo van, the indictment says. The group customized the vans by ripping out some or all of the passenger seats to more easily fit the ATM in the back of the cars. The group scouted businesses for non-bank ATMs, then went in multiple cars in the "dark, early early hours of the morning," the indictment says.

The driver of one car would crash into the front door or window of the business, usually in reverse, and slam into the ATM to pry it loose. The other men would hop out of the car, rush into the store, load the machine into the vehicle and drive off.

They took the machines to a safe house, the location of which is not disclosed in court documents, and used blow torches, power tools and pry tools to get to the cash inside.

The indictment says the group hit 10 business in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Summit and Stark counties between January 2015 and Aug. 8. Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office spokesman Joe Frolik said Tuesday that the office expects to file more charges against the men.

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